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San Fran to LA Road Trip

San Fran To LA Road Trip – our 3 day California Trip where neither Chris or I had to drive!

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This California Road Trip included all the must see stops on the California Coast. Our guide was Adam, he is knowledgeable, friendly and is like your new travel BFF!

Day One

We booked our tour through Viator, it was simple and amazing.

On Tuesday morning, Adam pulled into our hotel, the Hyatt Regency Downtown San Franciso, right on time.  He loaded our luggage and after we collected another group from a different hotel we were off and running aimed at the Pacific Coastal Highway. Adam gave us a brief overview of the day and then we were on our way to Monterey.

There are planned stops every few hours to give you a chance to regroup, stretch and view the sites.  Our first stop was Pigeon Point Lighthouse, part of the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

I was thrilled to see the plants! All of these we have to grow in pots back in New England.

California Road Trip - San Fran To LA Road Trip

Our next stop was at Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport. A family run farm with a lovely little shop. We dropped our mony in the till on the counter for our purchase. We bought a pint of Mara Des Bois organic strawberries.  Chris and I had finished them before we pulled out of the parking lot. Yum!

We saw some beautiful California beaches and lovely homes on our drive down to Santa Cruz, where we stopped for lunch and a stroll.  We had a light lunch and a stroll around town window shopping.

In Monterey, we were staying at the Spindrift Inn in Cannery Row (Steinbeck anyone?).

Monterey Bay

But first we visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The Aquarium was quite impressive. Monterey Bay is teeming with Kelp Forests that are home to some amazing sea creatures. Our timing was good and we watched the diver feed the sharks and other large fish. The special exhibit was Viva Baja, which featured creatures from the coastal habitats of Baja. Just take a look at this flamboyant cuttlefish – it is beautiful.

Our room at the Spindrift Inn was lovely and had an upscale beachy decor. There was a sweet bay window seat overlooking Cannery Row.

The hotel is 4 stories and has a large roof deck which overlooks Monterey Bay. We had our happy hour and breakfast the following day on the deck.  The views were spectacular, I want to have  my coffee there every morning!

California Road Trip - San Fran To LA Road Trip

Day Two

Adam collected us early in the morning for day 2 of our coastal trip.  We were excited because the Big Sur scenic drive had just reopened a week before, it was closed for almost a year due to a landslide.

But first it was the world-famous 17-Mile Drive.  Magnificent views, homes, and my husband’s favorite – Pebble Beach Golf Club.  We had about an hour to wander around the grounds and through the club house. Did you know Pebble Beach is a public course? Anyone can play there – even me – Ha!

California Road Trip - San Fran To LA Road Trip - Pebble Beach
The 18th at Pebble Beach

But there is more to see on this drive, The Lone Cypress – a California landmark, the Del Monte Forrest, Spyglass Hill Golf Course, The Poppy Hills Golf Course and more.

The Lone Cypres
The Lone Cypress


Carmel-by-the-Sea was our next stop on this California Road Trip. We had a drive by some of the sweet cottages then parked. We had about an hour to grab a quick lunch (lots of great little coffee shops) and window shop. Since Chris and I love walking, it is fun to explore these little towns. This $3,500 leather jacket caught my eye,  but I couldn’t get Chris to bite 🙂

Big Sur

Big Sur – all I can say is WOW! The 3+ hour drive up and down twisting roads with breathtaking views. We stopped several times for photographs, even ran into people from Boston. These photographs do not do the scenery justice! This San Fran To LA road trip is nothing like home.

California Road Trip - San Fran To LA Road Trip
Big Sur
California Road Trip
Big Sur

We stopped in San Simeon to view the Elephant Seal Colonies – the male seals were in residence – they are huge and loud.  Fun to watch.

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle – what can I say…..250,000 acres, 41 fireplaces, and 60 bathrooms!

1 Refilling-the-Pool_4157

Photo credit: from www.hearstcastle.org

Adam dropped us off and went to check us into our hotels and drop our luggage (one of the great perks of tour travel). We boarded the bus at the visitor center then began the trek up the mountain to the Enchanted Hill for the Grand Rooms Tour. The tour was interesting, and included parts of the gardens, pools and the large entertainment areas.  The real fun was wandering the gardens and taking in the breathtaking views.

After a white-knuckle ride back down the long driveway, we were off to our hotel in Cambria, The Rigdon House, a lovely boutique hotel off the main drag. We were just a little late for happy hour, which is ubiquitous in Coastal California. However, we enjoyed some nice Chardonnay and light finger food along with delightful company: a young couple from Dublin, Ireland, a couple from Simi Valley and a couple from Los Angeles.  Eventually, we made our way to Robin’s for dinner. It was across the street from Rigdon House and recommended by Adam.  The atmosphere was California Coastal Casual and we had a great meal – I highly recommend the Pecan Tart if it is available, Yum!

Our suite at Rigdon House was large, gorgeous, and spotless. We really only were in Cambria for dinner and sleep, but from my short peak of the area – it looked like a nice sleepy, well traveled town between San Francisco and LA.

The  Rigdon House

Day Three

Our morning began with an 8:00 am pickup and a morning drive to Solvang. A Danish tourist town loaded with wine tasting and pastry shops.  We stopped for an hour and had enough time for a pasty, coffee and a walk about town.

The Santa Ynez Valley was next on the tour. The beautiful scenery was dotted with vineyards, grapes and cows as far as we could see (at least until the mountains inhibit the view).

We finished our time with Adam in Santa Barbara.  He brought us to the Amtrak Station as planned and organized each groups’ tickets to Los Angeles.  We planned to spend two days in Santa Barbara, Adam arranged our tickets, and dropped us at our hotel. It was his recommendation and was spot on!

San Fran To LA Road Trip

San Fran To LA Road Trip

Our touring trip was perfect, Chris didn’t have to drive so he got to see all the amazing vistas, relax and enjoy the ultimate summer California road trip!

If you want to take this wonderful Pacific Coast road trip, you can book it here. Make sure to tell Adam, Sandi sent you!

Happy Travels,


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  1. I hope to make this trip some day. My husband and I were able to drive the Pacific Coast in Oregon a few years ago and California is definitely on our bucket list. Beautiful pictures!

  2. This coastal drive is on my travel bucket list. Doing a tour for this is a great idea! You really experienced some awesome stops.

  3. So many cool stops along the way! I would love the aquarium and seeing Hearst Castle. Stunning views!

  4. I love California… the little I have seen of it anyway. It is definitely a bucket list item to drive the coastal Highway. Hopefully it will be in the plans soon! Your photos are gorgeous!

  5. Just the area I’ve always wanted to take a road trip in! Thank you for taking me along!

  6. I’ve been to LA but I’ve never been as far north as San Francisco! I’d love the explore that city. What a beautiful road trip for you.

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